New England’s northern neighbor is close enough to be accessible, yet foreign enough to offer new experiences. Most importantly, however, the province of Quebec is frigid enough to be a mecca of wintertime entertainment.
THINGS TO DO IN QUEBEC THIS WINTER
The province’s largest city, Montreal, sits only an hour from the Vermont border and is known for its eclectic culture, cuisine, and art, which stem in large part from its colonial French roots. The city today is remarkably multicultural and caters to visitors of all kinds with its diverse restaurants, engaging art and history museums, and charming Old Port.
The city shines especially bright in the summer, when it hosts a multitude of outdoor festivals and events, but even in the harshness of the cold, Canadian winter, Montreal flourishes. Many years ago, the city decided to embrace its frosty climate and put on events that rival those of the summer months.
Things to Do in Montreal
Igloofest │ Weekends, January 12─February 19, 2018
For fans of music festivals, Igloofest is a must. The main event is a massive, multi-weekend, outdoor party that features popular electronic music artists and attracts thousands of guests from all over the world.
This “Celebration of Snow” is a family-friendly festival that takes place near one of Montreal’s most famous landmarks, the Biosphere. The festival features a huge variety of fun activities, like snow tubing, ice sculptures, dog sledding, ice slides, zip-lining, and much more!
During “Montreal in Lights” visitors are invited to explore the culinary and artistic sides of the city. At tastings and workshops, learn how some of Montreal’s best chefs create their meals — or simply enjoy the fruits of their labor! Then, head to the Quartier des Spectacles (the city’s main arts district), where you’ll find a variety of outdoor activities that will keep you warm, from concerts to curling. Don’t miss this year’s Illuminart, an event featuring 25 interactive, light-themed art installations, which can be found throughout the entirety of the arts district.
Nuit Blanche │ March 3, 2018
Part of Montréal en Lumière, Nuit Blanche (meaning “sleepless night”) is an all-night event that spans four of Montreal’s neighborhoods. Events vary within each neighborhood, offering guests a chance to see the many sides of Montreal. Visitors can explore the different parts of the city by way of a free shuttle bus service.
Things to See in Montreal
Start by exploring Old Montreal, with its cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages, and European-inspired architecture. While there, check out the beautiful Notre-Dame Basilica, go ice skating in the Old Port, or dine in one of the area’s many fine restaurants. Afterwards, make your way up the city’s centerpiece, Mount Royal, which offers a fantastic view over downtown from the Chalet du Mont-Royal.
The city is also home to a number of museums, such as theMuseum of Fine Arts, the Pointe-à-Callière Museum (archaeology and history), theMcCord Museum (Montreal history), and the Redpath Museum (natural history).
Other places to visit include St. Joseph’s Oratory, Rue Sainte-Catherine (Montreal’s main shopping street), and the Place for Life complex, which contains the Montreal Biodome, Botanical Gardens, Insectarium, and Planetarium. To keep warm during your stay, try one of Canada’s beloved culinary specialties, such as poutine or beaver tails (a pastry similar to fried dough).
Northeast of Montreal, you’ll find Quebec City, the capital of the province and, arguably, its crown jewel. Whereas Montreal is known to be more youthful and hip, Quebec City is a bastion of traditional Québécois culture and cuisine. Old Quebec, the city’s sprawling old town, is full of quaint shops and galleries where you’ll find the perfect souvenir or work of art. For the hungry, there is a wide selection of restaurants and taverns that offer hearty, traditional meals, like Quebec’s famous tourtière. During the colder half of the year, the city transforms into the perfect winter getaway.
Now in its 64th year, the Quebec Winter Carnival is the original wintertime celebration. Chill with the carnival’s cheery, snowman-esque mascot, Bonhomme Carnaval, and experience the Canadian capital of winter through the wintry festivities, which are located throughout Quebec’s charming and historic old town. Activities include ice skating, ice sliding, a snowboarding jamboree, a maple sugar shack, snow-carving competitions, and much more. Don’t miss the nighttime carnival parades.
Things to See in Quebec City
To get your bearings, ascend Quebec City’s tallest skyscraper to the Observatoire de la Capitale, which offers a 360° view of the entire city and beyond. After that, walk by Quebec’s beautiful Parliament Building, where you can take a free guided tour, or head to La Citadelle de Québec, where you can learn about the history of Quebec City’s centuries-old fortress.
Then, explore the oldest walled city north of Mexico, Old Quebec, which is divided into two parts: the Upper Town (Haute-Ville) and Lower Town (Basse-Ville). In both areas, you’ll find a variety of traditional restaurants, shops, and things to see, like the magnificent Château Frontenac or the city’s numerous historical museums.
For more about what to do and see in Quebec City, read A Weekend in Quebec City.
Outside The Cities
Perhaps you prefer a slightly less urban environment? Then spend a weekend at one of Quebec’s many ski mountains, like Mont Blanc, Mont Orford, or Mont Tremblant (which also offers shopping and dining in a mountainside ski village).
Alternatively, visit the Montmorency Falls, a 276-foot-tall waterfall (almost 100 feet taller than those of the Niagara Falls) located only a few minutes from Quebec City.
For something more relaxing and romantic, stay a night at Quebec’s world-famous ice hotel, Hôtel de Glace.
Have you ever visited Quebec in winter?
This post was first published in 2017 and has been updated.